Firm, polished and pricey, implants revive his smile

Ron DeLacy
By Ron DeLacy June 15, 2010 13:53

In keeping with my specialty of Adventures in Aging, and inasmuch as our Friends and Neighbors theme this time is Love After 50, which of course translates to Sex After 50, which is naughty, I’ll tell you about my nasty teeth.

They’re rattling around in a jar in my bathroom, all 16 of them, discolored, disfigured, disgusting and discarded. Some are real big like the eruptive lower canine that a friend called my tusk. Some are tiny, some pathetic fragments, none of them resembling their younger days when they could bite into an apple without a tooth becoming part of the apple.

If I could have one do-over in my life it would be to take better care of my teeth. I brushed them and flossed them and paid dentists to chisel tartar off of them now and again, and I never did meth, that notorious wrecking ball of the pie hole. But obviously they needed more attention than they got, and eventually one by one they up and quit on me like so many slave-driven, underpaid, cursed and slapped-around line workers finally taking a big dump on the boss’s desk and stomping out the door.

Roots lost their grips on jaws. This gum here got infected, and then that one over there, and my dentist babied this tooth or that tooth along for as long as he could, and every six months to a year or so he’d have to pull one, although not as often in the past two years. That was because some teeth got so sore and wiggly that I could pull them myself with a finger and a thumb. Once I pushed one out with my tongue.

For a while I tried to cover a lower-rack gap with a bridge, but without much luck. First the bridge broke, and I didn’t know why. I got it repaired and then it broke again, this time into three pieces, and this time I did know why. It was because I ran over it. I had removed it for highway driving comfort, started to reinsert it in Livermore as I parked in a public lot, then dropped it as I got out of the car and fiddled with some paperwork long enough to forget about the bridge, which had landed behind the left front tire. It waited there for me to return and back over it.

That didn’t matter for long. In another month or two one of the bridge’s anchor teeth was gone anyway.

Late last year I looked into potential fake-teeth strategies, and eventually I settled on, a dental implant center that specializes in a procedure called “All-on-4,” for people needing to replace the entire grille instead of one or a few or several teeth. You get eight implant roots, sort of like concrete anchors, four on the top and four on the bottom, to keep plates of teeth in place. A temporary set goes in right away, and you’re on soft and progressively more conventional diets while the anchors integrate with bones and the chopper design is fine-tuned for a permanent set.

One dentist, one best friend and one brother argued against the cost, and it was a solid argument. I was looking at paying what I might shell out for a new car. Like, say, midsized or so. Like, say, upscale.

But with two old cars, one old motorcycle, one old van and one old truck, some of them running, I didn’t need a new car. I needed new teeth, and I wanted to get them before I was down to the same number of teeth as vehicles.

So there I was at the center, going for “All-on-4,” which involves several visits and a series of exams, 3-D CAT scans and consultations with dental aides and hygienists, a prosthodontist, an oral-maxillofacial surgeon and a “patient education consultant.” After about a month they’ve made you all new teeth, they install them in a single day, and they don’t come out without a screwdriver.

The center staff said most people find the recovery period less painful than they expected. I wasn’t one of those people. To me it felt about like, oh, I dunno, I’d say about like somebody had pulled out all my teeth and then drilled into my jaws and planted eight anchors and screwed plates into them.

But the discomfort did pass. I was off Jell-O in a couple days, and within three weeks the new teeth felt better and worked better than the old ones, and progress continues as I write this in early May, chomping away, looking forward to more fine-tuning, feeling confident that I did what I had to do, and still wishing I had taken better care of my teeth.

Imagine the car I could be driving.

© 2010 Friends and Neighbors Magazine

Ron DeLacy
By Ron DeLacy June 15, 2010 13:53
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